The Wandering Earth is regarded as the China’s entry into big Science Fiction blockbusters that Hollywood has dominated for decades (and will probably continue to). Adapted from a novella by Liu Cixin, it goes for the big Bruckheimer approach that Bruckheimer doesn’t make anymore.
Until 13 February, 2019, its China book office has reached 2.4 Billion RMB (approximately 500 million AUD)
Liu Cixin—A Big Chinese Name in Sci-fi
Liu Cixin, born in June 1963, is a representative of the new generation of Chinese science fiction authors and recognized as a leading voice in Chinese sci-fi. He was awarded the China Galaxy Science Fiction Award for eight consecutive years, from 1999 to 2006 and again in 2010. His representative work The Three-body Problem was the ‘best story’ of 2015 Hugo Awards, the 3rd of 2015 Campbell Award finalists, and nominee of 2015 Nebulas Award.
His works have received wide acclaim on account of their powerful atmosphere and brilliant imagination. Liu Cixin’s stories successfully combine the exceedingly ephemeral with hard reality, all the while focusing on revealing the essence and aesthetics of science. He endeavors to create a distinctly Chinese style of science fiction. He is a member of the China Writers’ Association and the Shanxi Writers’ Association.
Liu’s most famous work, The Three-Body Problem, was published in 2007 (it is the first novel in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy). American author Ken Liu‘s 2014 translation (published by Tor Books) won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Liu Cixin thus became the first author from Asia to win Best Novel. The German translation (which included some portions of the original text not included in the English translation) followed in 2016. Liu also translated the third volume of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, Death’s End, in 2016, which was a 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel finalist.
A Tremendous Success—On Business and Cultural
The plot of “The Wandering Earth” adaptation is, like many of Liu’s stories, complex, broadly imaginative, and stuffed with extreme scenarios and existential choices.
The tale takes place in a bleak future, at a time when the expansion of the sun threatens to engulf the earth. Human beings decide to respond by building up 10,000 massive thruster engines on the planet, capable of pushing the earth out of its current orbit and into the depths of the universe, in hopes of reaching a more habitable ‘solar’ system. When the planet instead gets trapped by Jupiter’s gravitational field, however, the crew of an orbiting space station must decide whether to abandon the earth in order to preserve something of humanity, or sacrifice their own lives in a low-probability attempt to free their homes from Jupiter’s pull.
Unabashedly classic in the great tradition of Asimov and Clarke, Liu Cixin’s science-fiction is firmly rooted in the cosmic. He uses the unique perspective of sci-fi to take us on a journey into this majestic, desolate cosmos. It can be terrifying to contemplate the end of our world and stories that describe such destruction can be terrifying. Meanwhile however, they can leave us feeling not only entertained, but thrilled and inspired. These inspirations may even give us a chance to renew our love of life. Most stories found in the “The Wandering Earth” collection take us to a sci-fi vision of Earth’s doom. In the short stories, the dangers humanity faces are much stranger and whimsical than aliens, though aliens could be found everywhere in his books.
They certainly stretched the A$67 million budget to make it look like A$250 million, but not having to pay inflated movie star salaries, high union dues and Hollywood studio overheads and “creative accounting” certainly helped. What makes it different – apart from the absences of a American style patriotic message – is the Big Crazy Science it sticks to more than Hollywood blockbusters do. The heroes find a way to save the planet with a big crazy scientific solution that’s both hilarious and epic.
The message of this movie isn’t patriotism but that everyone is in this together. There’s less of a big Chinese propaganda message in the movie, and more an allegorical call for action for the world to get together to do something about some particular issues such as ‘Climate Change’ or ‘Global Warming’ before it really destroys the planet we live on.
There’s a lot riding on The Wandering Earth. It’s China’s first Science Fiction blockbuster movie and one to herald a new era of big Chinese Sci-fi movies. Judging from box office figures – a take of A$500 million in China alone during opening week, and audience reaction on Chinese New Year opening week, that could be on its way.
Just about every screening in New York City during opening weekend was sold out, and when we left our screening, there was a Chinese media team outside the screening room interviewing the audience about it. They also had a screen where the movie director Frant Guo was live-streaming from China to talk to the audience and asking them what they thought of it. Almost all-Chinese audience loved it.
The Verge suggests that The Wandering Earth’s biggest strengths are in its quieter moments, where Guo takes the time to contemplate Jupiter’s gravity well slowly deepening its pull on Earth’s atmosphere, or Liu Qi staring up, awestruck, at the gas giant dwarfing his home. In those chilly sequences, the film calls back to an old-fashion slow science fiction. The interludes are brief, but they gave the audience a welcome respite from chase sequences and destruction.
The film gets pretty goofy at times, with jokes about Tim’s heritage, or Liu Qi’s inexperienced driving and overwhelming arrogance, or with high-speed banter over an impossibly long technical manual that no one has time to digest in the middle of an emergency. At times, the humor is a bit dry, as when MOSS responds to Liu Peiqiang’s repeated rebellions with a passive-aggressive “Will all violators stop contact immediately with Earth?” But Guo finds time for majesty as well, and makes a point of considering the problem on a global scale, rather than just focusing on the few desperate strivers who have tied the Earth’s potential destruction into their own personal issues.
China would love to make movies that are as popular worldwide as Hollywood’s, and it’s a steep learning curve. The Wandering Earth is a solid step. It’s safe, mostly inoffensive and with a positive message. They have no problems getting the Chinese audiences abroad to show up, but they’re going to have figure out how to market to audiences beyond the domestic and overseas Chinese people if they want to grab some of that non-Chinese demographic.
(Content edited from Amazon, bleedingcool.com，sixthtone.com, the Verge )
Edited by Joreal Qian